Macintosh to iPad: How Apple Inc thinks different

Vivek (CA ) (2368 Points)

03 April 2011  

Macintosh to iPad: How Apple Inc thinks different

It was one of the last companies to launch smartphones, yet the iPhone already accounts for half the profits of the mobile handset industry and 20% of its revenues.

It was not the first to invest in the portable digital player, but the iPod today has a 75% market share in the US.

It wasn't the first one to develop tablets, yet the iPad controls 73% of the market.

It wasn't even the first to develop the famed visual look of it's iMac computers-Xerox did that in the 1970s...the list of Apple creating 'new' out of the existing is long.

How does Apple, again and again, walk away with such an overwhelming chunk of mindshare, market share and profit share without necessarily innovating anything?

Perhaps the secret lies in its 'Think Different' approach.

We explain:

PC to Mac

Before Apple

Large, heavy machines that used intimidating software. Users had to type technical commands to get the simplest things done-open or close a file, copy or print documents. For instance to copy a document from one to another locations you had to type : c:/copy c:/documents/text1.doc c:/importanddocs/

The 'Think Different' Effect

A smaller and aesthetically superior hardware powered by a radically different operating system that used icons of real life items rather than abstract commands. For instance, to copy a document all you had to do was click on the document and move it across the folder you wanted to put it in. Apple was also among the first one to adopt mouse-which for non-technical users was more intuitive way to use a computer than keyboard commands.

By thinking different Apple transformed computer from an awe-inspiring but intimidating machine into an endearing personal gadget. The Mac cult was born.

Success quotient

At 9.7% market share, Apple was the only major computer-maker in the US to witness growth in PC shipments in the quarter ending Dec 2010. During the quarter Apple's revenues from PC sales were $5.4 bn

Apple's Design philosophy

"The best tools are those that users are not even aware they are using. The more you can do to simplify the interface of your application for your users, the more likely it is that you will build a product that meets their needs and is enjoyable to use."

"Apply the 80% solution: design your software to meet the needs of at least 80% of your users.

If you try to design for the 20% of your target audience who are power users, your design may not be usable by the other 80% of users." -

Excerpts from Apple Human Interface Guidelines

MP3 Player to iPod

Before Apple

Chunky, heavy, ugly devices with several buttons, low battery life and small storage. The only USP of these players was novelty of being digital-liberation from tape or disc.

The 'Think Different' Effect

Simple, attractive, lightweight. Few and intuitive buttons, large screen to manage and view song list, much better battery and storage-the ad line being "a 1000 songs in your pocket".

Apple also set up iTunes to help download and manage music legally.

Think different meant combining the appearance of mere portability with even bigger appeal of utility and beauty.

As the line 'iPod therefore I am' proved, a fad had begun.

Success quotient

The iPod's market share of portable digital players in the US was 75%.

Revenues from iPod and iTunes for the quarter ending Dec 2010 were $4.8 bn

Smartphone to iPhone

Before Apple

Smartphones were in plenty, but most of them were like miniature computers in form and restrictive in functions. For instance, if you wanted a phone with email function and qwerty keyboard, you had to forgo multimedia features.

Design was basic-the handset conveyed status, not taste. Handsets were heavy and a large keyboard was obligatory

The 'Think Different' Effect

A large and best-in-the-market touch screen, irresistibly eye grabbing apps, all the features of iPod and a ready to use Net connection-the iPhone redefined the market from day 1.

It had no keyboard and you could seamlessly switch between videos, songs, a phone call, email or web surfing. All this in a device smaller and slicker than existing smartphones.

The iPhone wasn't just a phone, with its vast expanding app store, it was the first communication device to be sold as an eco-system. The features that could be added were almost endless.

The smartphone became smarter and a showpiece.

Success quotient

The iPhone already accounts for half the profits generated by major mobile phonemakers.

This device alone earned Apple $10.4 billion in the quarter ending December 2010.

Tablet to iPad

Before Apple
In existence since the late 1990s, tablets were no more than laptops with rotating screen. The screens were interactive, but touch interface was rudimentary and mostly worked with stylus!

Meant only for business users, these tablets were dying as failed products with the entry of netbooks.

The 'Think Different' Effect

The only thing common with old tablets was the category. iPad was an all-new device with almost infinite usage that keeps expanding with addition to the ever-increasing number of apps. A category creator, iPad has spawned a tsunami of tablets in the market.

iPad is perhaps the only product where Apple not just thought different, but also thought very new. Unlike in the past, it didn't redefine a product-it almost defined the product.

Success quotient

The iPad is the fastest-selling gadget of all times, selling 7.3 million in just one year. In the quarter ending Dec 2010 it earned $4.6 billion for Apple

Research: Avinash Celestine

Graphics: Alankar

Financial data from: Apple Financials, Asymco Research,